Most people couldn't describe to you the practical mechanics of the stem cell controversy and more than they could tell you about the horrors of detainment and secret CIA prisons.
Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight BackPublisher: Hyperion
Author: David Goodman
Display Artist: Amy Goodman and David Goodman
UK publication date: 2006-09
US publication date: 2006-09
They were still collecting the cadavers along K and Independence, when Amy Goodman sat down to broadcast the news of a Democratic dawn in America. Republicans, horror-stricken and facing unemployment, were wedged into the Capitol gutters where the street sweepers could easily collect them. You half expected her to be broadcasting from a hospital bed, recovering from emergency plastic surgery after a too deep election night grin had brutally torn her cheeks, Black Dahlia-style. But there she sat, po-faced and professional ... or simply shocked. But regular members of Goodman's Democracy Now! audience, or anyone who merely skims through her new book, could safely bet that behind that tidy mask of composure lay some barely tempered euphoria.
The cover of Static, which she co-wrote with journo hubby David Goodman, bears the distorted faces of at least two freshly neutered politicos -- one newly dismissed Secretary of Defense, and the other being a lame duck Texan who's been the chief source of their ire since he took office. Two down, one veep to go. But a flurry of subpoenas might drive the "Great White Hunter" from the roost as well, which would force the Goodmans to commission an entirely new jacket for the paperback.
Reading like an Administration rap sheet and a stern indictment of the media that let them down, Static is a look at the details beneath the headline horrors that most disinterested Americans never get to. Our knee-jerk polarization is largely kept aloft by sound bites and the shrill dogma of talk radio. Most people couldn't describe to you the practical mechanics of the stem cell controversy and more than they could tell you about the horrors of detainment and secret CIA prisons. If they could, they wouldn't need the Goodmans' account of Maher Arar and his "extraordinary rendition" to Syria. The Canadian citizen was shanghaied at JFK International and eventually held and tortured for more than 10 months because of his suspected connections to terrorists. When he was finally released, no formal charges had ever been brought against him. The scars, real and psychological, and Arar's failed bid for justice via the courts (dismissed on the grounds of "national security"...) are all unsettlingly documented here.
Elsewhere the focus is turned to the media and its implicit role in not doing anywhere near enough to call out the administration. There are the attempts to influence the fourth estate through government generated news segments and advertising. No matter that the Government Accounting Office has made it clear on several occasions that President Bush has launched a campaign of "covert propaganda" to the tune of $250 million.
There's not much in the way of style to Static; the authors' writing is about as restrained and matter-of-fact as Amy Goodman's on-air delivery. And while there's a significant amount of structure here to show that the authors have been carefully logging offenses against justice, the lack of a clever narrative or an engaging singular thread results in Static oscillating towards a strong, and steady drone. Sure, there are probably droves of disengaged Americans who will find much of this surprising, but for those are even mildly tuned in to the daily media static, healthy chunks of the book (the crusade of Cindy Sheehan, Jon Stewart v. Crossfire, and accounts of dissenters being kept from the President's purview ...) border on the tiresome. Had the Goodmans' spent more time detailing the case of Camilo Mejia, the Florida Guardsmen who turned conscientious objector after having done an ugly tour in Iraq and was subsequently sent to the brig for it, there Static might have held up as something more savory. Failing at those moments to capture the imagination, as they earnestly attempt to secure your outrage, the Goodmans heavily flirt with being cast in the unsexy role of liberal wonks -- their anger tipping towards rectitude and their position in the media drifting towards the humdrum.
But there is the argument to be made that there's little need for finessing the material covered here. Through sheer osmosis, those in the electorate who have never heard of her or her brother, have apparently gotten their message.